Hartford Public Schools released this response to the release of the report by the Office of the Child Advocates on Matthew Tirado:
The story of Matthew Tirado is a tragedy for all of us in the Hartford community. The Hartford Public School District is compelled to take action to prevent similar incidents in the future. The District has been working closely with the Office of the Child Advocate and other agencies during the past year to revamp systems and protocols intended to protect students. Hartford Public Schools will continue to address the critical need to identify shortcomings in the safety net for our children, especially our children with disabilities.
This Report identifies failings in our culture to serve children, and within the District’s policies, procedures and practices regarding chronic absenteeism, internal processes and proper collaboration with external agencies. With the support of the OCA and Hartford Public Schools’ Independent Monitor, the District is currently developing a Whole Student Framework with the objective of changing staff culture on reporting suspected child abuse and neglect, providing optimal support for student needs, and creating opportunities for Social and Emotional Learning.
The Office of Special Education Programs is in the process of evaluating the current understanding and practices of administrative and school staff related to documenting and monitoring students with disabilities and chronic absenteeism, both within District schools and in placements outside the District. Special Education Directors and Out-of-District Specialists are required to document, monitor and investigate absences for all students with disabilities. The Special Education Compliance team is adapting the District’s Disengaged Student Referral form to document absenteeism in out-of-district placements for accountability purposes. A cross-departmental task-force has been convened to examine current processes for monitoring enrollment and attendance of outplaced students and close gaps for the purpose of ensuring student safety and legal compliance.
Hartford Public Schools agrees with the OCA’s position that the legislative framework and state guidance in the area of homeschooling must be strengthened. Expanded guidelines would empower school districts to ensure that children who have been withdrawn from the classroom to be homeschooled are safe and are receiving adequate education. We encourage collaboration in this arena and support any efforts made by the OCA to develop a more adequate framework statewide.
Hartford Public Schools has conducted a review of current procedures for students whose parents have requested homeschooling for their children and is implementing the following procedures to better protect the safety of these students:
Upon receiving notification that a parent seeks to homeschool their child, District staff will work with school staff to determine whether staff have concerns.
District staff will cross-check the student and family history with school-based referrals made to the Department of Children and Families and within the District’s iSight incident management system.
If concerns arise, the District point person will follow up with appropriate agencies, including making DCF referrals as necessary.
The District is developing a communication to parents of homeschooled children to be distributed twice a year, consistent with state law and administrative guidance, requesting that parents (1) indicate whether they are still homeschooling their child(ren) or if they have been enrolled in another district and (2) provide updates on their child(ren)’s portfolio and the instruction being provided at home.
Hartford Public Schools is grateful for the OCA’s dedication to its mission of protecting our children and we look forward to our continued collaboration. At Hartford Public Schools we have developed an Action Plan to address many of these concerns. The OCA’s findings and recommendations in this Report are currently under consideration by Hartford’s Board of Education and will be incorporated into the District’s ongoing Action Plan to ensure student safety.